UKEdMag: 26 First World War Lesson Ideas For Schools

At the time of publication, it was leading up to 100 years since the cessation of fighting at the end of the First World War. The destruction of life, lands and families finally ceased for a couple of decades and bringing to mind the conflict of modern-day young generations is still important as lessons can be learned from those tragic battles.

In this feature, which was originally published in Issue 51 of our UKEdMagazine, we highlight 26 lesson ideas that can be used in all schools, helping us remember the ultimate sacrifice committed by so many. The activities are spread across multiple pages.

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1) Trench Food

Food is a central part of everyone’s day, and the soldiers in the trenches were no exception. The quality of diet of soldiers decreased over the four years of war, comprising of a tiny amount of bully beef (corned beef), bread and biscuits in the latter years.

2) U-Boats

The U-boat, or submarine was used to interrupt supplies to the front lines and imports to the home front. Experiment to design the best sinking and floating pneumatic U-boats, using balloons, tubes and syringes to explore buoyancy.

3) Trenches From Above

Look at the training trenches at Penally in Wales Explore why they have a zigzag pattern? [These were to contain explosions.] Why were there many rows of trenches and what were the straighter trenches used for? [Supply lines] Use a tray of damp sand to copy and then experiment with different designs.

4) Messages from the Sky

It is difficult to imagine today, but communication technology was in its infancy during the war, with only the telegraph providing human-made long-distance communication possible 100,000 carrier pigeons were used as messengers during the war. These animals would fly home, meaning that if you take them to another location you could attach a message to them to take home with 95% accurate (which is probably better than letters home via the school bag in your own class!) Design this system by using only paper ‘pigeons’ aeroplanes with messages within your class for an hour. No other communication is allowed. There should be a limited number of pigeons which must be returned to the starting positions, just like the WW1 pigeons would have to be transported. Messages, therefore, can only travel one way for each pigeon as they only fly home.

5) School Stodge

In Britain, the first school meals appeared in 1906, but during the First World War, these were expanded to most schools to ensure that children had sufficient food during rationing. The menu included:

  • bean soup and bread, followed by treacle pudding
  • toad-in-the-hole, potatoes and bread
  • mutton stew and suet pudding
  • fish and potato pie, followed by baked raisin pudding

Ask your pupils to research and compare school meals now and during the war, and you could even try some of the items.

6) Gas Masks

Poison gas was used extensively in the First World War and the gas mask was an essential piece of kit these began as rude bags and evolved to include respirator by 1916. In a similar way to the makeshift gas masks of the early years of the war, ask your pupils to design gas masks from recycled materials. Beware of suffocation risk at all times. You can even test the effectiveness of the mask using cropped onions to see if the mask provides protection.

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About @ICTmagic 780 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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